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In Defense of Cinderella

by Asha Praver

Not the mythical Cinderella of the much maligned “Cinderella Syndrome,” the woman I defend is the “real” Cinderella, the one given to us by Walt Disney himself. (He didn’t actually invent her, only animated her for his classic film.)

For the first time in many years, I recently watched Disney’s original Cinderella, with the colors restored. First of all, it was astrally beautiful, the way is must have looked to my child eyes the first time I saw it.

I remember loving the movie when it came out all those years ago, but it didn’t define my female psyche as some writers later claimed it did for many women. Watching it now, in the light of those claims, I felt the story has been picked by entirely the wrong string. Yes, Cinderella prays for her Prince and he does come, but she hardly waits passively to be rescued.

In fact, against horrible mistreatment and impossible odds, she kept her spirits up and her heart open. Her life is one to be emulated, not mocked.

The untimely death of her parents left Cinderella at the mercy of women who hated her -- her ugly step-mother and step-sisters. She was exiled from her rightful place, denied even the simplest pleasures, a servant -- virtually a slave -- in her own home. Yet, in spite of everything, Cinderella found it in her heart to sing happily and serve cheerfully.

Denied the friendship of her own kind, she gave love to whoever needed it and would accept it from her -- birds, mice, and other small creatures. Continually insulted, maligned, and abused, she returned love for scorn, and kindness for cruelty.

How many of us, faced with such challenges could respond as Cinderella did?

Even though nothing but a color drawing, Cinderella wasn’t “two dimensional.” At times she wept with loneliness and despair, crying out for the love she knew was hers by right. She wasn’t in “denial.” She wasn’t numb to her own pain. But she didn’t allow her suffering to define her. She chose love. She chose happiness.

No wonder she drew to herself a “Fairy Godmother.” It wasn’t a random visit. Cinderella magnetized that blessing by her own nobility of character.

Even then, the Fairy Godmother did not “fix” the situation. She only gave Cinderella the opportunity to meet the Prince. She didn’t cast a spell to make him fall in love with her. Cinderella had to win his love all on her own.

It was her transparent beauty, created not only by the Disney artists, but also by her own goodness that drew the Prince to her.

If Cinderella had allowed her circumstances to poison her consciousness -- as so many people do -- even the most beautiful gown would not have masked the darkness of her nature. The Prince would never have fallen in love with her. Nor, in fact, would the Fairy Godmother have come. The whole plot would have had to be different.

This is no mere child’s tale. It is a myth only because, presumably, Cinderella never lived. Otherwise, it is a true story, a faithful demonstration of karmic law. “As you give, so shall you receive.” The “Cinderella Syndrome” is the choices we make. It was because of her own right attitudes and right actions that Cinderella drew to herself the greatest gifts of all: help from above and everlasting love.

Rather than scorning Cinderella as an outmoded symbol, let us strive -- men and women alike! -- to emulate her response to life.


Asha has been living in Ananda Communities and studying with Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, for nearly 40 years. With her husband David, she is the co-director of the Ananda Temple and Community in Palo Alto, California (www.AnandaPaloAlto.org). She is author of Swami Kriyananda As We Have Known Him (www.AsWeHaveKnownHim.org), available through Amazon. An extensive selection of audio classes is available at www.AnandaPaloAlto.org, in “Talks/Newsletters.”

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